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Keywords:

  • Escherichia coli;
  • Fast sampling;
  • Metabolomics;
  • Metabolite leakage;
  • Methanol quenching

To reliably determine intracellular metabolite concentrations in microorganisms, accurate sampling and sample inactivation strategies are crucial. Here, we present a method for automated fast filtration and on-filter quenching of microbial samples to overcome metabolite leakage induced by cold shock and significantly reduce the sampling and treatment time compared to manual filtration methods. The whole process of sampling, sample filtration, filter wash, and quenching of the filter with liquid nitrogen was finished in less than 6–15 s, depending on the experimental setup. By integration into an automated fast sampling device, we compared our method to the conventional methanol quenching method and showed that intracellular amino acid contents in Escherichia coli were significantly increased (≥75%) with our fast filtration and on-filter quenching method. Furthermore, we investigated different filter types for the fast filtration and the efficiency of metabolite extraction from cells held on filters. Additionally, we found that the fast filtration behaves considerably different during exponential and nonexponential growth, probably due to variations of cell morphologies. Overall, we demonstrated that the automation of the fast filtration method significantly reduces the time for filtration and quenching and hence enlarge the number of metabolites that can be quantified with this leakage-free sampling method.